Review- The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes

Title: The Sense of an Ending

Genre: General Fiction

Author: Julian Barnes

Publisher: Random House, 2011

Source: Free for review from Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 4

Description from

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.


What if the times of your life that you remember really didn’t happen the way you remember them?  What if you get to old age and the history, your history is altered by new facts?  And what if those facts rock you to your core?

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING delves into these questions in a profound and moving way.  Julian Barnes kept me turning pages to unravel the life of Tony Webster as Tony was trying to make sense of his life and those around him.  But it is only when we have all the facts that the history reinvents itself and begs for a new look as we try to understand, as Tony tries to understand. There is new angst as we/he search our memories for errors that we may have missed.

This is a beautifully written book.  It is character driven by characters that are so well drawn that we can see and feel them as we read.  But we are only privy to Tony’s memories and so we can’t know everything until Tony knows.  Even then we can’t know everything.

I highly recommend this novel.

(The Sense of an Ending won the prestigious Man Booker Prize of 2011)



Filed under Book review, Books

15 responses to “Review- The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes

  1. mo

    I’m always wary of books that win literary prizes or acclaim. In my experience, I’ve found it difficult to relate to the characters in these books (Vernon God Little, Life of Pi, The Secret History…to name a few). I also feel that some of these books try too hard to fit into what is ‘literary fiction’. I’m not discounting their value or worth, but I sometimes feel that these prizes are a way for those in literary circles to scratch each others backs. Plus, it kind of peeves me that it’s these so-called literary types that snub their noses at one of the largest genres in fiction – Romance. Maybe I’m wrong and I just don’t get it.

    Jessica from Read React Review posted an interesting review on this book and the themes Barnes used.

    I may end up reading it, but I’ve got too much HR, UF and YA on my list at the moment. I’m such a pleb! 😉


    • Mo, how is it that you say exactly what I’m thinking? I totally agree with you about the literary acclaim. So many of the books deemed “literary” are pretentious and just plain boring if not appearing to be written for erudite shock value. (Good grief! did I just use pretentious and erudite in a sentence????!!!!)

      I read Jessica’s comments on the book. And yes, it can be a common mistake to “over-read” a book. Especially when it is deemed “literary”, like there is some magical meaning hidden in the pages between the lines. Most times a loaf of bread is just a loaf of bread. And the “sperm slucing down the drain” is alluding to the protagonists sexual frustration and not his diddling the girlfriend’s mother.

      The book was prize worthy. It stays with you. Always the sign of a good book.


  2. mo

    Also, can’t wait to see what you think of MacLean’s latest. I hope it’s better than her last two and closer to what we got with Nine Rules.


  3. Edyta

    YES to what both of you said, also I’m a little jealous of you Dot for using pretentious and erudite in a sentence 😀
    I do read the “lit hits” and classics to break up my reading. In most cases I come away disappointed. I sooo agree with Life of Pi, also The Gathering and History of Love are among my most detested books. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Shadow of the Wind are not as literary as some, but I HATED these books. I did really love (like LOVE) Atonement (but not the movie). I find classics addictive (the modern ones too), but many of the current books that get the acclaim now seem to try too hard. I did start this one last night though.


    • mo

      I love my classics too, but in these, the author makes you FEEL for the characters. You are immersed in their story. What I’ve experienced in literary fiction is that there is a distance between the reader and the characters, making it harder for me to connect to them and care about what happens to them.

      I do need to read a McEwan. Will add Atonement to my list.


    • Are you finding the beginning slow going. I had a hard time getting into Sense of an Ending. I think I was just distracted at the time but maybe it was the book. Once I settled down with it, it went fast. It is a short book.
      Yes, it was pretentious of me to use the word pretentious. 🙂 I should hang my head for using “erudite” in a sentence to criticise literary works. lol


  4. Edyta

    Mo, you have a way of articulating what I think. That is exactly what the difference is between the modern classics (like East of Eden) or true classics and the more current stuff.
    Dot, it’s not you, it’s the slow beginning ( I hope the picking up happens soon).

    Darynda Jones’ Third Grave was awesome. Can not wait for the next book. It’s supposed to come out in the fall, around the same time as the new Toby Daye. It’s shaping out to be a good UF fall.


  5. Edyta

    Just finished this one. You are very right, once you get past the slower beginning bits, this novel is compelling. I really liked it, but I did feel like there should have been more. Very good overall.


    • I do understand why you felt like you wanted “more”. I liked that there wasn’t more. It gave me several scenerios to think about. And also the chance to remember all those “memories” to see if there were any clues. I didn’t find any.


  6. I’m so glad to have found your blog! I have nothing but time on my hands to read and you’re making my Amazon queue so easy!


  7. I agree. I loved this book! Nice review.


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